Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back from a Long Weekend Away

Last Thursday my family and I headed north, over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, and into upstate New York: farm country! It was lovely to watch the scenery go by and see the patchwork of fields and woodlands, with the Catskills hovering in the background.
Right after we checked into our little hotel in Cobleskill, we headed out to Howe Caverns, only 10 minutes away. The cool, dark cave was such a change from the bright summer weather, and we all enjoyed learning the history of the cave, how it was discovered (Mr. Howe noticed some cows hanging out in a certain spot on hot days and found the natural cave entrance nearby), and seeing some of the unusual flowstone formations. Howe Caverns has a river running through it underground, so we also got a boat ride on the river "Styx."

The next day, we drove over the Erie Canal and up into Herkimer, NY where we tried our hands at prospecting for the quartz crystals known as "Herkimer Diamonds."
It was hot, dusty work and even though we all had big dreams of finding crystals like the ones I found in Herkimer as a kid (pictured below), we mostly found only small stuff. (Maybe I should make those into a pair of earrings and a pendant. Hmmm...)

Our one big find was this crystal hidden in pocket of rock. It's about a half-inch long. We brought the whole rock home, planning to gently ease it out of there with more precise tools, but I kind of like the way it looks hidden there in its natural niche. I wonder if any more diamonds are hidden in other pockets in the rock!
Once we got home, I took all the little crystals we found and put them together into that little corked bottle shown on the right. I also took the largest crystal piece we found and wrapped some wire around it. These might make nice pendants, or maybe we'll save them for our Christmas tree this year, as a memento of our trip.

The next day we headed back to Howe Caverns to try out their brand new Zip Line! Here is my daughter Sarah flying on her first stretch. The zip line consisted of four towers with the lines stretched between them, so your ride consists of four zip trips. I was content to stay on the ground and take photos (even ski lifts make me nervous!) but the girls and Mark had a great time.
In the center of the zip line, there is a horseshoe shaped obstacle course challenge.
As you can see, the girls are attached to the structure with a line for safety, because it's got several levels and was quite a challenge. It was great to watch them begin a little nervously, evaluate each section, decide on the best approach, overcome fears and doubts, struggle on, and ultimately be succussful. Further successes brought greater confidence and fewer doubts. It really was an excellent activity and well worth the $10 ticket price. They spent about an hour climbing from one end of the structure to the other, trying different sections above and below, until they had done them all.

After another short ride in the car, we arrived at the Ommegang Brewery just south of Cooperstown. We had some fries with different aioli and spiced ketchup dipping sauces (with a couple of beers, of course!) and then got a tour of the place, which included more beer tasting at the end. Now my hubby wants to try brewing his own at home!
And we couldn't get so close to Cooperstown without stopping there to see the sights. The town is lovely, and despite the fact that we are not huge baseball fans, it was fun window shopping and looking at all the baseball memorabilia, as well as the outside of the Hall of Fame and the statue of the "sandlot kid" just outside of Doubleday Field. We also got some dinner and ice cream.

By Sunday morning, the forecast called for rain, so we headed over to Middleburgh for a quick brunch in a cute little cafe` and then headed for home. Even if it's just for a few days, it's always great to get out for a change of scenery and some new activities we could do together as a family. Now it's time for back-to-school shopping, haircuts, and high school and middle school orientations. Here we go again!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Playing with Charms Again

Last week I stopped into our nearby Michael's Craft store while I was out shopping with the girls and came across a couple of chains marked down for clearance. I couldn't resist this one with its copper patina color, and at only $2.50 for a 24" length, it was a bargain! Over the weekend I pulled out some of my charm-making materials and played with them for a few days, so here's my latest jewelry creation. I do love the way charm bracelets sound, jingling and clinking on your wrist as you go about your day. Of course, I have a ton of beads and such in that aqua color, and happened to discover that if you smear a metallic aqua acrylic paint over copper metal charms (ones with engraving details work best) and wipe off the excess, it's a nice simulation of a patina. That's how I got the color on some of the charms above, especially the leaf-shaped one on the far right, the three little leaves in the center, and the dragonfly wings. I had purchased a bunch of small copper charms from a few years ago (they have a nice selection and don't charge shipping in the US) so I'm still incorporating those into my jewelry and art. One of those was that little picture frame towards the center of the bracelet. I glued in a small piece of quilted "paper cloth" I made a couple of years ago and embellished it with a small seahorse from a tiny paper punch (another bargain impulse buy a few years ago). A couple of the other charms are made from polymer clay and one bead was rolled out of paper cut from an old National Geographic magazine!

I have enough chain left to make 3 more of these! When am I going to get around to opening that ETSY shop, anyway? (or maybe I can try these at the Putnam Arts Council Holiday sale this year...)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Last week I tried something I've been wanting to try for a long time: shaving cream marbling on fabric. I've been thinking about how I can get a nice gentle swirled affect with a variety of shades of blue without dyeing (I'm just not up to tackling the complexities of dyeing my own fabrics, but I am willing to paint and try other surface design techniques). I saw a quick demo of shaving cream marbling on paper and I've heard about other fabric artists who've tried it with cloth, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

What you do is take shaving cream and spread it onto a washable surface (I used a large piece of plexiglass). Then stir in drops or streaks of various paints until the shaving cream looks marbled. Then all you do is lay a piece of prewashed fabric (or paper) over the shaving cream and the swirls of paint will transfer to the fabric. I would've taken shots of myself doing this, but it's amazing how quickly that shaving cream got everywhere so I didn't dare pick up the camera! But above are the peices of fabric I marbled laid out on my outdoor table to dry. Below is a close-up of one piece. Not bad for my first try!

I decided I might as well dive right in and see how it looks as a watery background. I decided to do another one of my favorite little seahorses. I keep doing this over and over again because although I feel like I'm getting closer to the look I want, I still haven't achieved it yet. For this guy, I stitched wavy strips of the sheer aqua fabrics I've been working with onto the marbled fabric, then added the "sand" fabric below, and the seaweed and seahorse. I used copper accents this time, painted on the seaweed and on the seahorse before I cut and stitched him. I also used copper metallic thread.

Here are two close-up shots:

Once again, I think it's closer to the look I'm shooting for, but I don't think this is the "eureka" yet. I want it to really be amazing, I want viewers to feel like he's so life-like and likeable that they just want to hug him. I want them to be able to smell the salt water and feel the cool wetness of it. I want them to feel like it's magical! I don't know if it's there yet...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Spirit" flag

Jane Davila, the leader of our FANE group, is always encouraging us to try new things and challenge ourselves. She recently told us about Viveka Dinegre's Prayer Flag Project and suggested we try something similar for our next group show at the Mahopac Public Library (in addition to our 9"x20" pieces). A few members shared their flags at our last meeting Thursday night, and I just finished creating the above flag yesterday. Jane was reluctant to force a religious tone to our flags, being that we're all of different faiths and denominations, but she did encourage us to give our flags a spiritual theme. I immediately thought I'd go with the spirit of Peace, and ended up including the prayer of St. Francis in the background and the words "Create in me a peaceful heart, O Lord." In Vivika Dinegre's project, she encourages a real prayer like this and if I were to participate in her project, I would hang it outside so the wind would carry the prayer around the world, and eventually the flag would weather and be carried away on the wind. Her flags are only 5" wide, where this one is 7" wide, so I don't think I can include it in her project, but maybe I'll make some more. We can certainly use some more peaceful hearts in the world, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Mini Vacation

Library programming wrapped up last week, so I decided to take advantage of my more flexible schedule and take the girls to visit my parents outside of Allentown, PA for my mom's birthday this week. Here are a few pictures of the local scenery:

Yesterday it was hot and sunny so we splashed and played in the Wildwater Kingdom at Dorney Park (no photos of that, but we wore ourselves out keeping cool!).

Today was a little cooler and overcast, so we tooled around the area and took in some of the local color. We stopped for ice cream and sweet treats at the Premise Maid shoppes outside of Kutztown. The girls each chose a bag of candy as well as an ice cream cone - yum!

Above is a view of one of the beautiful farms in the area, right across the street from the ice cream shoppe.

My mother and I also couldn't resist a quick visit to the Woods Bridge Dry Goods store owned by a Mennonite family. They had a good variety of fabrics from prints to flannels as well as some buttons and other notions, all reasonably priced. Here is a shot of their selection of batiks. I bought a couple to add to my stash, in some of my favorite colors.

It was great to get a little change of scenery, some play time with the girls, and some quality time with my parents.

This evening it was home again, and it's back to work tomorrow. August should be a more relaxed month, since the hectic program and camp schedules have let up and we don't have to start thinking about back-to-school just yet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Happy August!

I decided to finish a few creative projects and write a post first thing this morning before work and another busy day. I am outside keeping the dog busy before our daily walk. Here is a morning glory climbing near our deck. They're so cheerful, with their trumpet shape and the delicate folds and stripes.

And here are some more coasters, in a different color scheme this time! These seemed a little harder to me because I didn't have as many fabric and stamp options, but I'm still happy with the results and still enjoyed the process a lot. They're another gift...
And now I'd better run. I need to get ready for work, and somebody wants to play...
Have a great Monday!